We recently attended the GPU Technology Conference and spent time at the Artec 3D booth where we got a free 3D body scan. Impressed with the technology we researched the company and eventually set up an interview with Andrei Vakulenko, Chief Business Development Officer at Artec 3D. Andrei spoke to us about the growth of 3D scanning and how Artec 3D is leading the way both in technological development and in educating the public about 3D scanning.
How has precision 3D scanning grown so significantly in the last 10 years? Is it because of advances in artificial intelligence or something else?
Andrei: The key factors driving significant growth within the 3D scanning space have been usability and affordability. Ten years ago, precision 3D scanners were both very expensive, but crucially, also quite complex to use. This technology was really built for technical engineers. An artist would need to undergo intense training to be able to use professional 3D scanners.
Now, thanks to both hardware and software advancements rooted in artificial intelligence (AI), these tools can easily be used by professionals in non-technical industries - for example, doctors, archaeologists and artists. This is the basis of many of the autopilot functions we've included in our Artec Studio 12 software and Artec Leo handheld scanner. These new AI-enabled functionalities are opening up the use of the technology to nearly everyone. This is good news for new users and engineers alike - a steep learning curve doesn't benefit anyone.
It's apparent that high quality scanning would have an impact in the medical, engineering and science/education, but how can it help artists?
Andrei: Handheld 3D scanners are especially useful for portraits, sculptures and even fashion. 3D scanners are used to get a precise 3D model of the object, then it's up to the artist what they do with this - print it as it is, enlarge it, use it as a base or feature for a new design. 3D scanning is also a great help for 3D artists in computer-generated imagery (CGI) and virtual reality (VR), because it is the fastest way to put an object or person into a recreated 3D world - much faster than drawing them from scratch and obviously a lot more accurate. The possibilities for using 3D scanning are endless.
We know of quite a few artists who use 3D scanning in their work! The Artec Eva was even used to scan Barack Obama to create the first 3D portrait of an American president.
Our 3D scanners have also played a big role in the #WOODVETIA campaign by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. The initiative is to raise awareness of the advantage of using wood. Artist Inigo Gheyselinckis crafting wooden figures of famous Swiss people using wood. Each famous figure is made from wood that is somehow linked to their history. For instance, it could be trees native to where that historical figure lived or worked. To create the figure's likeness, a clay bust would be molded and digitized using an Artec Eva scanner. The artist would also find a person with a similar physique as the historical figure and use them to create a body scan that could be fused digitally with the sculpted bust using Artec Studio. The 3D models were converted into a format compatible for CNC milling and the statues would be milled from a large rectangular wooden block.
The use of 3D technologies has also been gathering popularity in the fashion industry. Anna Wilhelmi, a Berlin fashion designer, who wanted to utilize American football pads for a high-fashion design project. Anna used a mix of 3D scanner, 3D design software and 3D printers to bring her vision to fruition. Ultimately, she was able to scan an existing object and manipulate to suit her vision.
Artec3D's release of Artec Leo is described as a "first of its kind smart device"; can you tell us how this device is a first? What special technology makes this 3D scanner unique?
Andrei: First and foremost, it is the NVIDIA Jetson AI supercomputer that allows us to make The Artec Leo such a unique, user-friendly 3D scanner. It means that you no longer need to connect your 3D scanner to a laptop, making it much, much easier to 3D scan an object. It's truly tetherless, whereas before you had to balance two devices in your hands (scanner and laptop), now you have only one. Furthermore, the Jetson platform allows us to perform real-time 3D data processing on board, so the user can see on the scanner's HD screen exactly what has been scanned and what areas still need to be covered. It's now a very intuitive process, which anyone can just pick up - it's as if you were just painting the object.
The advancements we've made have created a very exciting future for the industry. We have a very powerful platform inside the device that will allow the scanner to learn to make decisions itself - from being able to tell you when you have collected enough information for your scan to being able to autonomously compare scans for quality control purposes.
Artec 3D has had amazing growth over the last 10 years; what do you attribute this to?
Andrei: Our aim since the company started was to create high precision 3D scanners that were easy to use. As part of this, probably the single most important aspect of our technology is that the precision of the scanners does not depend on using targets. These small stickers often need to be stuck very densely all over an object in order for the 3D scanner to be able to capture all the data needed for a high precision 3D model. It goes without saying that you can't do this with any historical object or generally sensitive object, since the stickers could damage it. In addition, the process of using targets is quite time consuming, especially when you have finished scanning and you need to unstick them all and remove the residue from the object! Our technology, however, collects the data required by analyzing both the geometry and color of the object, so you don't need to use targets at all. I think our users really value this.
Can you describe how a typical scanning session would work with Artec Leo and Artec Studio 12?
The user would scan the object using Artec Leo and its embedded software. This creates a low-res 3D model - essentially a real-time preview so that the user can check to see if he or she has captured all sides of their object. Since you don't need to be connected to a computer or tablet, the user has free range of motion when scanning. Then the raw data should be uploaded to a computer via WiFi or an Ethernet cable and be processed in Artec Studio 12 - either using the Autopilot mode or manual mode, as the user prefers.
With the autopilot mode, users are guided through a few simple questions related to the characteristics of the object being scanned and the type of 3D model that is desired. Unwanted captured data is deleted, scans are auto-aligned, and the program selects the most effective 3D algorithms for the data at hand. This will create a professional-grade 3D model, which the user can immediately start using in their application - be it in Geomagic Design X or SOLIDWORKS for engineering, Geomagic Control for inspection, Maya for CGI, etc.
Finally, what kind of uses do you see Artec 3D scanning technology being applied to in the future?
Andrei: The most exciting area is probably everything AI-related. Intelligent 3D scanners will not only be able to make simple decisions, but subjective ones as well. For example, being able to tell which seams on a car seat are straight enough to be acceptable in a production facility, and which ones don't meet requirements and thus can't be shipped to customers. Which dents on an airplane need immediate maintenance work, and which can just be monitored for the time being.
Another AI-related project we are working on - together with the University of Luxembourg - is using deep learning to research how to automatically fit a parametric model to a person's 3D scan. This is to understand where a person's joints are no matter the clothes they were wearing when being scanned - baggy or otherwise. The purpose is to make it possible to animate any 3D scan of a person automatically. The potential for this is huge. In the future, you may go to the cinema and not only choose the film you want to see, but also the actors in it! Maybe you will even choose to be in the film yourself!
You can find out more information on Artec 3D scanning technology at this link: